In life, everyone makes mistakes, sometimes. Some of those mistakes happen within the confines of your family law case and, if that happens, the consequences can be severe. Even if you have made significant mistakes in your case, it is still imperative that you don’t give up and that you continue aggressively to fight for your relationship with your children. The law in Maryland may give you more options than you might have thought. Contact an experienced family law attorney to find out what paths may be available for you.
So, what do we mean by mistakes? As an example, let’s look at the case of C.K.N., a Montgomery County mom and Cameroonian immigrant going through a custody battle with her child’s father, E.L. A custody case, like other civil law cases, has a “discovery phase,” where each side has the opportunity ask the other side to respond to certain questions (called “interrogatories”) and to turn over copies of certain documents (called “requests for production.”)
One of the reasons it is so important to have a skilled family law attorney representing you during every phase of your case is that failure to follow certain rules, including discovery rules, can lead to severe punishments. In C.K.N.’s case, she failed to respond to certain discovery requests on time, so the judge punished her by imposing severe restrictions on what she could argue at her hearing and what evidence she could present in her custody case.
If you are a layperson and you get a court order that says that you are “prohibited… from calling any witnesses and contesting any claims” made by the other parent “in connection with the case,” your first impulse might be to assume your case is doomed and give up.
Achieving the ‘best interest of the child’ trumped discovery violation rules
Fortunately, this mother did not do that. In Maryland, the law says that, when it comes to cases like child custody matters – or anything where the “best interest of the child” is to be determined, that “best interest of the child” concept is so important that it can overcome many legal procedural errors, including discovery violations.
That was what helped to salvage this mother’s case. In custody cases like C.K.N.’s, “the best interest of S.L. transcended the interests of either” parent. The facts demonstrated that the child was living with the mother when the custody battle began and that neither parent had been declared by the courts to be an unfit parent. Under circumstances like that, a trial judge can decide that allowing only one parent (and the non-primary custodial parent at that) to present arguments, evidence and witnesses about which parent should get custody would be something that would prevent him from making a truly informed decision that was genuinely in the best interest of the child. When that’s true, the judge is free to allow both parents to present their proof and arguments, even if one parent had been previously punished for discovery violations.
Even if you think that “the cards” are stacked against you in your child custody case, your family is too important for you simply to give up. Instead, reach out to a knowledgeable lawyer who can point you to all of the options that are available, including some that you may not have known existed for you. Skilled Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi can offer you the in-depth information, the helpful advice and the diligent advocacy your case needs. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.